Sunday, November 22, 2015

Books Across America: DAY 3

Another great day on the road, traveling through New Mexico and Arizona after a long day crossing the Texas Panhandle on Friday.  Today, I visited Bookworks in Albuquerque, NM.  Bookworks is one of Albuquerque's last remaining independent bookstores, in operation for 31 years, first in the Rio Grande Valley and later moved to its current location on Rio Grande next door to Flying Star Cafe (which by the way, has the yummiest turkey sandwiches and cookies -- really good cookies!).

Bookworks is committed to providing a wealth of literary events for the community, hosting 400-500 adult, young adult and children's events annually, for both nationally touring authors, best-selling authors and local authors.  Amazing.  They actively support local authors and provide a wide variety of genres, including both used and new titles.  They are also active in the community, donating books and gift certificates to local nonprofits.  I found a wonderful section highlighting local authors and even several shelves dedicated to local book clubs.


When I stepped inside this unassuming shop, I realized instantly that this was not the average bookstore.  A fire burned in a southwest style fireplace, and customers were browsing books and checking fliers for upcoming events.  Book sellers were buzzing at the counter, helping customers remember titles, taking orders over the phone and cheerfully helping anybody who had a question.  A really nice group.  I was also impressed by the casual vibe, the almost cozy living room feel to the place.  This store was inviting, in a regular neighborhood kind of way, welcoming all ages, providing a wide variety of genres and interests.  An absolutely charming and helpful staff, a warm and creative environment, and an obvious diverse reading community.  So many wonderful, unique and sometimes obscure titles right alongside best-selling, highly commercial titles.  I had the feeling, all literature was important to this staff and their customers, books from famous authors and emerging authors filled the shelves, juxtaposed together, sharing the same shelf space, which gave the place a strong sense of community and a commitment to the interests of their readers, with deep love for literature.  I loved this bookstore and even more so, what they seem to be doing for the promotion of literature in Albuquerque.  Bravo.

My life on the lane is filled with long days on the road, wonderfully colorful bookstores, and best of all, this trip has shown me how dedicated independent bookstores are to their communities of readers.
We will be crossing the border into Arizona, where THE LIES WE KEEP is primarily set, where I will continue to visit more bookstores after Thanksgiving.  My wish to you, dear reader, is that you will be surrounded by who you love or what you love during the holiday, and that your life is blessed with beautiful stories, a love for reading and time to sit back, relax and enjoy a few chapters or maybe even more of something you've really wanted to read lately.  Cheers!





Saturday, November 21, 2015

Books Across America -- DAY TWO


Today, I visited the largest independent bookstore in Oklahoma.  Full Circle Bookstore is located on the first level of the 50 Penn Place building in Oklahoma City.  This charming bookstore boasts more than 60,000 titles in dozens of genres, beautifully arranged within oak book cases with rolling ladders to reach those high volumes.  There were sections of poetry, fiction, travel, classic literature, education...the list goes on, including Native American books, and an entire area dedicated to local Oklahoma authors.  Comfy seating areas with wood burning fireplaces added a warm ambiance to the entire store. There was even an alcove with a coffee bar and cafe offering breakfast and lunch items, and some treats, too.  This is the bookstore that everyone who wants to own a bookstore would love to own.

I was greeted by the friendly staff the moment I entered, Beverly at the front desk, John stocking shelves, and helping customers.  Both, so kind and helpful, and I could tell John knew his literature and was eager to show me around telling me about upcoming events and the fact that they hold one of the largest selections of poetry anywhere.  The children's area was filled from floor to ceiling with a lovely selection of literature especially for the youngest of readers and beyond.  Story hour, wooden train tracks, and cozy corners to curl up with a favorite book.  A paradise of sorts, and a dream come true for book-lovers.  I signed a copy of my new suspense novel, The Lies We Keep, and then lingered for a while, browsing, and chatting about books, and then enjoyed a cup of tea with Mr. Lane before hitting the road to our next destination.  I highly recommend Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City if you have a chance to visit.  Absolutely charming.


I love these vintage theater seats.
John couldn't have been more kind!


Friday, November 20, 2015

Books Across America -- DAY ONE


I'm road tripping (with my travel companion, Mr. Lane) from Cleveland to Scottsdale.  The same route from start to finish, beginning to end in THE LIES WE KEEP.  Main character, Alex, grew up in Cleveland but ends up in Arizona where he thinks he's free from his past, until a chance encounter with someone who has never forgotten him.  Every mile that passes under our car reminds me of his trip west after hitching a ride with a truck driver.  Of course, I've driven this route before, researching the story, but it's all new again now that THE LIES WE KEEP has been released.  Somehow the novel has come alive for me as we pass through the same towns he traveled through, under the over-passes that were draped in flags, passing by small motels and diners.  This is where the story dwells and I'm enjoying every mile.  


We're stopping in towns along the way, visiting independent bookstores, meeting book lovers and book sellers, those diligent folks who keep our communities richly supplied with literature.  We are traveling by car alongside parts of what is left of Route 66, taking exits for odd tours of caverns and quirky, dusty old tourist shops.  Today, we ate lunch at a truck stop somewhere between St. Louis and Springfield.  There's something about truck drivers who ride along new Route 44…they seem a bit vintage, from days gone by, as if the ghosts of Route 66 live on in their cabs.  They are full of colorful stories of life on the road, and they know what is most delicious on the menu (thanks Bill for the tip on the pizza…who knew it could taste so good from a kitchen inside a gas station?).

Caron with the
Owner
of Subterranean Books
We started out at Indy Reads Books in Indianapolis, a bookstore I wanted to stop by on our way to St. Louis, just a quick stop because I'd read about what they are doing there.  But, we were too late, caught in traffic and arrived after they had closed.  But here's the deal, we have to drive back to Cleveland at some point, so we will try again on the way home.  I mention it, because the store relies on donated books.  It's a beautiful shop where you can become a member and support literature (and receive a discount on the books you purchase for a year).  They also rely on volunteer staff members.  How cool is that?  People helping their community and in the process, promoting literacy.  If you want to donate books (author friends or readers who have gently read books) visit their website to see how you can help the effort to keep Indy reading (indyreadsbooks.org).  An independent bookstore and the only bookstore in downtown Indianapolis.  They sell used and new books for all ages.  Operating as a non-profit, not-for-profit organization Indy Reads is on a mission to improve the literacy skills of adults in central Indiana who currently read at or below the sixth grade level.  Profits from sales at the bookstore go directly into the community to improve literacy.  Now that's a special bookstore.  Visit…but just know, from experience, they close at 7PM during the week!  (9PM on Friday and Sat, Sunday till 6)  Indy Reads Books, 911 Massachusetts Avenue in downtown Indianapolis.

We stayed the night in St. Louis and visited Subterranean Books the next morning.  A very warm and charming bookstore at 6275 Delmar, In the Loop, St. Louis.  Along a street of redeveloped buildings with other shops and places to grab a cup of coffee.  The store has a lovely feeling with a loft, the shelves tidy and filled with a wonderful selection of literature.  From the moment you walk in the store, you feel like pulling a book from the shelves, finding a comfy chair and cozying up to read.  My book is now available!  St. Louis is a great town, with a diverse population of people who are resilient and hardy, and always friendly.  Someone told us, regarding the recent issues in the community, "Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better."  I definitely felt a positive vibe around town, people are holding their heads high and working toward a better tomorrow.

Next stop was Springfield, MO.  I met with Josh at BOOKMARX Bookstore in downtown Springfield.  Mostly gently used books, they also carry new titles and can order any title you need.  The shop is modern and very cool.  Streamlined shelves with a wide selection of reads for just about any genre.  Located at 325 E. Walnut Street right down the street from Hotel Vandivort, a four-star boutique hotel in the heart of a well redeveloped area of town.  Josh noted he doesn't know how indy bookstores can make it these days without offering used books.  They just can't compete with the big online bookstores, so having gently used books is key to their success.  Plus, there's a shop right next door with cupcakes...so of course they are doing well.  BookMarx trades books for books, buys used books and Josh seemed happy to accept my donation of my newest title.  Stop by if you're in Springfield, where this little shop is working hard to bring literature to this community.

Caron with Josh at BOOKMARX
We crossed over to Oklahoma today, so tomorrow will bring more indy bookstores to visit.  I plan to visit as many as I can to shake the hands of store owners who work hard to keep literature available to their communities.  I've got a full box of books to present to shop owners, but what's most fun is talking to readers about books, and what they love to read and seeing that they have a place to go browse the shelves for just the right book.  Support your local bookshop.  Remember to do your holiday shopping on Main Street and that books make a great gift.    

My life on the lane is on the road, visiting bookstores and meeting readers, signing books and shaking hands and life is good.